Saturday, July 16, 2011
A Few Comments on The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Just for your morning, noon or evening reading pleasure, here is a brief excerpt from this "Autobiography," which is really Stein talking about her own life through the literary protagonist she's created in Toklas. Thus, this is Alice/Stein talking--a rather complicated double-image of an "I" in this autobiography, but definitely an accessible work by Stein if you forgive her unorthodox punctuation and refusal to use quotations marks:
"...Fernande was the first wife of a genius I sat with and she was not the least amusing. We talked hats. Fernande has two subjects hats and perfumes. This first day we talked hats. She liked hats, she had the true french feeling about a hat, if a hat did not provoke some witticism from a man on the street the hat was not a success. Later on once in Montmartre she and I were walking together. She had on a large yellow hat and I had on a much smaller blue one. As we were walking along a workman stopped and called out, there go the sun and the moon shining together. Ah, said Fernande to me with a radiant smile, you see our hats are a success." (pp. 14-15 Vintage Books Edition, March 1990).
Just one of the many quirky moments and spontaneous ramblings this books seems filled with. It also brings to life this time in Paris (such as how people actually got fit walking up and down the many flights of stairs to their ateliers since there were no elevators yet installed, etc...), and since Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris is also re-envisioning this same time period this summer, it seems extra appropriate and fun to read this autobiography now.